Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Curry for Shabbat

The flower store lady is juggling two vases, marigolds, keys, and the tail of her sari. When her husband rushes to help, his yarmulke falls to the ground. In a distant language, she upbraids him. He allows the door of their shop to slam, leaving squashed foliage and the odor of turmeric outside. I am tired of cottage cheese. I have Basmati rice. I will go to Jerusalem, buy spices, and make curry for Shabbat. 

Even before I step up the stone stair to Spices by the Brothers Chamami, roughly, the Hot Brothers, a teenage boy waves his arms like I'm radioactive. He calls out, not taking his eyes off me, to a chubby middle aged man, who intercepts me and leads me to a chair. I plop my stuff down, my Trader Joe's bag on top, and wonder if anyone suspects I'm American.  

I ask for cardamom, cumin, and turmeric in Hebrew, from my cheat sheet. I ask for chili pepper, except I get the vowels wrong. The owner grins over his scooper. I've asked for a Talmudic discourse, chili style. 

Mr. Hot is gracious; he asks me in English how many scoops. I'm confused. Instead of little plastic bottles, he's digging deep into burlap sacks of spice. I buy by the kilo.  

Street noises permeate the scarf shop. I pick out a summer weight blue and grab my credit card. I prepare to ask the proprietress in my best Hebrew what I owe, but she’s busy with a stylish older lady. They’re deep in conversation. In French.

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